Czech leader explains call to ‘monitor’ Russian citizens

Czech President Petr Pavel has partially walked back his call for a broad surveillance of Russians living in the West.

“Monitoring does not mean that every Russian citizen should be monitored,” Pavel told CNN Prima News on Sunday. “What it means is general monitoring of what is going on in that community and a response to behavioral risk factors.”

“It is a measure to ensure the safety of our citizens so we don’t have a repeat of what happened in Vrbetice,” the president said, referring to the 2014 explosions at two ammunition depots in the southeastern part of the country. The Czech authorities claimed that Russian agents were behind the blasts and expelled several Russian diplomats over the incident. Moscow has denied any involvement in the explosions.

Speaking to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on Thursday, Pavel called for “stricter” monitoring of Russians in view of the armed conflict with Ukraine. He drew a comparison to the mass internment of Japanese Americans in the US during World War II. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan apologized to the Japanese American community and signed a law that offered compensation to surviving victims.

Pavel argued on Sunday that the historical parallel he drew earlier “certainly did not sound like an endorsement or even a suggestion that we should go down the same path.” He insisted that he only mentioned the WWII-era interment in order to provide “historical context” in describing past restrictions imposed on “citizens of a country that is waging a war.” 

In 2021, the Czech Republic became one of the first states formally designated as an “unfriendly country” by Russia. Moscow cited Prague’s hostile policies, including the expulsion of diplomats.

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